Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG
What qualities are essential for modern corporate trademark professionals and how can these be developed?
It is essential to understand the business and the competitive environment that your company operates in. Having access to the historic information of the brands and the company itself is also a great advantage. However, the most important characteristic of a successful trademark professional is loving your products and brands and knowing them by heart. If you love what you protect, you will automatically do a great job and look for ways to improve the level of protection. I can only say: I love chocolate.
What is the one piece of advice that you would give to those looking to develop a career in the corporate IP field?
Be open, be interested, think outside the box, try new things and, most importantly, learn from errors. If you fail, try a different approach. The IP field is so dynamic that you cannot consider and apply a one-size-fits-all approach. You must constantly rethink your strategies and be flexible enough to adjust your path whenever it is necessary. You will also need support and trust from your management, colleagues and team.
Corporate resources are finite. What advice can you share about how to maximise these and ensure that global protection is achieved without costing the earth?
You must find the best possible systems and networks to handle your daily work in a way that fits your method of doing things. There is no ideal approach that can be replicated at all companies. You must take advantage of the available resources in the IP field – and these are numerous. There are multiple ways to efficiently handle global IP work. For example, starting with great technology such as IP asset and document management tools allows you to handle large portfolios in-house. Using tools to collaborate with internal and external stakeholders and utilising the ever-improving online resources from global IP offices is also useful. Wherever you reach your knowledge limits, there are great specialist lawyers and service providers in each region, who will be able to help you get back on track. It is also extremely important to network with peers in order to stay on top of the fast technological and procedural changes in the IP field.
At Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG you have been successful at collaborating with marketing, which is a relationship that some brand professionals struggle to build. What is the key to success in this endeavour?
The most important thing is to build bridges; you need to talk to your marketing teams and understand their needs and what they are trying to achieve. It also helps not to act as a typical lawyer – try to offer practical solutions instead of highlighting only problems. If you always say “no”, creative people will find creative ways to avoid you. If you manage to listen carefully and prove that you are contributing to the success of a marketing project, you will be seen as a valuable resource and will not have the reputation of being difficult. Another very important area is training; the more time that you invest in training your colleagues and showing them how you can support their projects, the more they will loop you in, provided that you convey the right message: “I am at your service, how may I assist you?” But you also need to deliver.
If you could make one change to the trademark world, what would it be?
I would extend the Madrid System to the entire world. It is such an efficient way to handle trademark filings and makes the lives of in-house teams much easier. There is still room for WIPO to improve certain things, but the recent accession of some key markets (eg, Mexico, Thailand, Canada and Brazil) have been milestones for those handling global trademark portfolios.